Misunderstood boys being left behind
Of the more than 2,000 children seeking assessment at the Mico Care Centre annually, approximately 75 per cent are boys who are often taken there by desperate and frustrated mothers searching for help.
The Mico Care Centre is operated by the Mico University College and is the leading institution for child assessment, diagnostic and therapeutic intervention services in the English-speaking Caribbean.
"This is one of the places where the boys are, in that the boys are just not managing as they should in school.
"They are largely not motivated to learn. Many of them don't seem to have the support, the encouragement. There are questions, too, about the presence of a father figure, and, therefore, they just underperform," Angelita Arnold, vice-president of child development and diagnostic and therapeutic services at the Mico Care Centre, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I think, too, there is also the expectation of some of us in the society that OK, the boys are not going to do as well and, therefore, we do not invest as much as we should in our boys, and we are talking about investing time and basic material," added Arnold.
She said that children taken to the Mico Care Centre are assessed and diagnosed before being accepted to receive specialised teaching at the institution.
They are seen by a nurse and a social worker before they are placed with a special educator, and Arnold said that the information shared during this process is sometimes heart-rending.
"The boys will tell you the truth. They will tell you exactly what they are experiencing. They will tell you that they are not loved. They will tell you how they learn to defend themselves and why they defend themselves. They sometimes will reveal some serious information," noted Arnold.
President of The Mico University College, Dr Ashburn Pinnock, believes that boys are experiencing serious issues because of the absence of a father figure in the home, and by extension, the absence of males in the classroom.
"There is a reason why you have two parents. There is a reason why you have a male and a female, and it doesn't matter how we want to be modernised and talk about women's liberal rights. Nothing is wrong with that, but when it comes to the caring of your kids, we need both parents," argued Pinnock.
He said that boys are often misunderstood, in and outside the classroom, because they are generally not as obedient as girls. Oftentimes, they are the recipient of abuse.
"Boys are naturally more curious. So if something is happening, or if the boyfriend comes in certain hours to the mother, the boys are more likely to see, and boys are protective of their parents, especially their mothers," said Pinnock.
"You will find that in the classroom, the girls will do better because the classroom environment suits them better. Because the classroom environments are orderly, you must be quiet, you must pay attention, you must listen, but boys do not learn like that, boys tend to learn by experimenting," added Pinnock.
His assertions were in line with the findings of a study which was conducted locally and showed that boys in Jamaica are being punished from as young as 18 months old.
In presenting the findings of Ja Kids: The Jamaican Birth Cohort study last year, Dr Maureen Samms-Vaughan, professor of child health and child development at the University of the West Indies, noted that there is a misunderstanding of the developmental differences between boys and girls.
"Little boys are already more active, and they are considered probably rude because they are exploring. However, this is how children learn and develop. We should be encouraging exploration and encouraging development, but instead, our children are being slapped and pinched because they are exploring a little more. Our cultural expectation of our children is to sit and be quiet," noted Samms-Vaughn during the presentation on the study.